International meeting on Mideast peace opens in Sharm el-Sheikh
An international meeting on Middle East peace opened Sunday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh amid hopes that a Barack Obama administration in the United States will accord adequate attention to settling Arab-Israeli differences, dpa reported.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were present at the meeting of the so-called Middle East Quartet.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni were to brief participants on negotiations over 12 months that failed to reach a final status agreement, or a framework for one.
Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told reporters on Saturday that the meeting was meant "to draw a framework for any future diplomatic efforts that aim to give a push to the peace process."
There was hope that the incoming US president would work to push the peace process forward, Abul Gheit said after a one-on-one meeting with Rice.
Rice, he said, would hand over "a comprehensive file that details everything that has been agreed on and the basis on which a final [Arab-Israeli and not just Palestinian-Israeli] settlement could be reached."
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa and the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan - Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel - and the foreign ministers of Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain met with quartet representatives.
They underlined the need for continued financial and technical support for the Palestinian Authority and the need to promote Palestinian reconciliation.
Commenting on the talks that took place over dinner Saturday, a senior Arab diplomat said: "We did not get much. And we were not expecting much. There is a new US administration and we will have to wait and see what Obama has in mind."
A follow-up to the meeting was to be held in Moscow "after the election of a new Israeli government," Abul Gheit said.
Palestinian sources in Sharm el-Sheik said they were hopeful that Sunday's meeting might produce some more assurances.